YouTube: Firefighter Training at Your Fingertips

Sean Wilkinson illustrates how a training officer can spend a short amount of time on YouTube and create real-life training scenarios for their department.

Preparation using YouTube videos can be a very time consuming task because you may have to watch many videos from start to finish, in order to find videos that match your drill topic.  While this does take time, you can also just watch parts of videos, take snippets of items from several videos and watch those; sometimes  compilations dedicated to just engine/truck work, or fires in specific building types can be effective.  While watching the videos, compile a list of ones that meet your criteria of the subject and few that also bring in a few other topics that you can use as refresher points. Hitting multiple SOGs during a drill keeps everyone on their toes, and also shows members how the SOGs work with each other.

Avoiding Knitpicking 

One pitfall that can strike members and instructors participating in a drill like this is going from critical analysis and application, to criticism.  Critical analysis and criticism can sometimes be a thin line of division, and other times, far reaches from each other.  As drill instructors, we must prepare our lessons so that this line has a very limited ability to be reached or, even worse, crossed. Part of your preparation for the drill should be to watch the videos all the way through to ensure they will provide quality moments of instruction.  Videos that appear to be pointing out mistakes or are titled with a negative connotation should definitely be avoided, as they will detract from the focus of the drill.   

However during the course of the drill, no matter the amount of preparation to prevent criticism, sometimes small snickering comments can be heard in the background.  As an instructor, it is your task to keep everyone on topic and not allow the background comments to gain traction to become a more focal point in the conversation.  A safe way to bring everyone back is to say, “We are watching an unsolicited fire department video and they do things differently than we do.  Who says there aren’t other videos out on the web where companies sit and laugh at us for how we do things.  We all learn from each other.”  Using statements like this or other motivational tools to keep the audience in line and on focus is important.   

Like any good tool, this is best used occasionally, so that repetition doesn’t develop and firefighters become bored with drilling. As drill instructors, we need to motivate ourselves and challenge ourselves to create interesting and different drill presentations.  This is just a suggestion, but something that is different than a hands-on approach or a lecture.  For those who haven’t tried this as an approach, feel free to email me or leave a comment at the bottom to share how it goes.  For those who have had the opportunity to use this in the past, also feel free to share your tips and experiences.  

SEAN WILKINSON is a captain and drill instructor with the Snyder Fire Department in Amherst, NY. He is a police dispatcher for the Town of Amherst Police and is the manager of an Urgent Care Center. He has a Bachelors of Arts in History from the University at Buffalo, and is currently completing the requirements for his Masters in Secondary Education at the University at Buffalo. You can contact Sean at: